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Discoveries and Innovations

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For more than 90 years, NRC scientists have been improving the lives of Canadians and our economy through exciting discoveries and innovative research. From biotechnology to aerospace research, astronomy to nanotechnology, NRC research plays a key role.

Read on to learn about some of NRC's greatest accomplishments.

On this page


Life Sciences

World's first simulation-based brain surgery performed in Halifax World's first simulation-based brain surgery performed in Halifax
Using NRC technology, surgeons in Halifax performed a patient-specific rehearsal of a brain tumour resection in a virtual-reality environment.
The Canadian Prairies are blanketed with brilliant yellow canola plants. NRC Research helps build a Billion-dollar Canola Business
The Canadian Prairies are blanketed with millions of acres of bright yellow canola fields. The crop is used in dozens of products, including cooking oil, mayonnaise and printing ink.
Molecular model of a Meningitis B vaccine. Winning the War against Infant Meningitis
Meningitis is a deadly disease that affects 400 people a year in Canada. The disease causes membranes around the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed, leading to permanent brain damage, deafness, or even death.
E.coli bacteria can make humans very sick if it gets into food or water supplies. Eliminating E. coli for Safer Food and Water
The safety of our food and water is a serious concern for Canadians. We need to know that the food we eat and the water we drink to stay healthy won't accidentally make us ill.

Physical Sciences

Lorne Elias developed the bomb sniffer at NRC in the 1980s. Bomb Sniffers Battle Terrorist Threats
Long before fictional forensic investigators with fancy crime-busting gadgets became popular entertainment, the Canadian Mounties were using some of the world's best detection equipment to sniff out hidden weapons.
NRC uses atomic clocks to keep Canadians ticking on time. Here is an early atomic clock. Keeping Canada on Time
Imagine what life would be like if everyone followed a different time. How would we schedule appointments, run businesses or know when class starts? If it were not for time standards, our society would not work efficiently – we'd all be too confused!
During WW2, NRC researchers developed a top-secret aircraft carrier made of reinforced ice. Scientific Research Helps World War II War Effort
In the midst of the Second World War, scientists around the world turned their attention to research that would benefit the war effort. National Research Council scientists were no exception.
Seven flags are subjected to varying wind speeds in NRC's propulsion wind tunnel. NRC Science Protects a Patriotic Symbol
The Canadian flag we know today was born in 1965. After a lengthy search and much debate, the red and white design with a single red maple leaf in the centre became our national flag, affectionately known as "The Maple Leaf."
Cutaway view of a patient subject to electron beam radiotherapy treatment planning. Physics Finds a Better Way to Target Cancer
These days, a cancer diagnosis is not automatically seen as a death sentence. Over the years, successful treatments have allowed cancer patients to carry on longer and more productive lives.

Engineering & Technology

Vancouver 2010: The NRC Edge Vancouver 2010: The NRC Edge
Psst, psst! NRC scientists are on a “Top Secret” mission to have more Canadian athletes than ever before on the podium at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Hold that pose! Hold that pose!
To help prepare for Vancouver 2010, Canada’s Own the Podium 2010 organization put NRC scientists to work in areas that are crucial to improving athletic performance.
NRC's wind tunnel helps athletes test the aerodynamics of their body positioning. NRC's Olympic Story
A lot goes into making an Olympic athlete. Extraordinary skill and determination go a long way in fulfilling gold-medal dreams, but there is more to winning than hard work.
NRC's George Klein and his team created the first practical motorized wheelchair at NRC in the 1950s. Engineering a Better Quality of Life
The dedicated researchers at the National Research Council have produced many significant medical technologies and advancements, but perhaps two of the most important are the first practical motorized wheelchair and the first artificial pacemaker.
NRC's streamlined locomotive design was sleek, modern, and most importantly - safe! Streamlining the Steam Locomotive
At the start of the 1930s, the National Research Council had just finished building its first wind tunnel. The Ottawa facility joined the ranks of the world's best wind tunnels and soon became an invaluable research tool for Canada's top scientists.
Builders prepare to pour the concrete foundation of a new house. Concrete and Cement Science Still Stand Strong
In 1920, huge concrete structures across western Canada started crumbling from Winnipeg's sewers to Saskatoon's public buildings. When National Research Council (NRC) scientists were called in to figure out the problem, they found that sulphate waters were attacking the concrete in these structures, causing it to swell and break down.
Ultrasonic obstacle detector Innovative Devices Improve the Lives of the Disabled
For many decades, National Research Council scientists have developed practical and innovative aids for people with disabilities. These devices have helped improve the everyday lives of people with visual, verbal, physical and other disabilities.

Astronomy & Space Science

NRC's original Canadian Space Team. Back row (from l-r): Bjarni Tryggvason, Robert Thirsk, Roberta Bondar, Steve MacLean. Front row: Ken Money and Marc Garneau. The Development of a Canadian Astronaut Program
In the summer of 1983, the National Research Council placed a help wanted ad in newspapers across Canada. NRC was looking for six people to develop experiments, perform public awareness activities, and undertake what would probably be the most exciting voyage of their lives – a journey into space.
George Klein with an early version of the STEM antenna. Extending Canada's Role in Space Exploration
A prolific inventor, NRC engineer George Klein's seemingly endless list of innovations spans nearly every field from atomic energy and aeronautic engineering to medical research and Space science.
The Canadarm Space Vision System Helps Astronauts See in Space
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield described Space as "a surreal place to work, with no familiar landmarks or objects to give perspective and depth." Yet for years, humans have been launching satellites, performing Space walks and building Space stations despite the challenges of working in Space.

Arts and Entertainment

Hugh Le Caine with the electronic sackbut – the world's first electronic music synthesizer. A New Era in Electronic Music
In the 1980s, a popular new genre of music called synthpop took over the airwaves. The distinct style was filled with the funky sounds produced by newly-available technologies like electronic drum machines and synthesizers.
Laser scanning helps museums protect precious historical treasures. After laser-scanning this mask (left), researchers can create a 3D "virtual" copy of it (right). Virtualizing Reality: Preserving Treasures and Innovating Entertainment
When virtual reality (VR) technology was developed in the 1980s, it was envisioned as a way for people to do extraordinary things, like play inside of video games or go on "virtual" holidays. The reality of virtual reality, however, is much different and much more practical.
Nestor Burtnyk created key-frame animation software that revolutionized computer animation. Where it all started – Animation in the NRC labs
In the late 1960s, NRC's Nestor Burtnyk heard a Disney Studios animator speak about making cartoons. Less than a year later, Burtnyk had developed a new technique that would revolutionize the way animators create 3D graphics.

Safety and Security

George Dobrowolski displays Canadian $50 bills with NRC-developed optical thin-film security features. Thin-Film Technology Helps Foil Counterfeiters
Take a close look at one of the newest Canadian $5 bills. If you hold it against a strong light you will see it contains a narrow strip of plastic that is embedded within the paper.
Harry Stevinson displays the Crash Position Indicator. Saving Survivors by Finding Fallen Aircraft
Before the 1960s, wilderness airplane crashes usually ended in tragedy. Even if they were not seriously injured during the crash, survivors faced a long wait before they could be rescued, often succumbing to starvation or exposure to the elements before they could be saved.
Francisella tularensis in a liver cell. Science Improves Crime-Busting Techniques
Today, more than ever, science and crime-fighting go hand-in-hand. Law enforcement officials rely on sophisticated equipment and techniques to find tiny clues, detect dangerous situations and prevent criminal activity.